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80-400 Question

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by FullFrame, May 15, 2007.

  1. I have a friend that is going to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and wants to know if what you guys think of the 80-400 as a wildlife lens. Heard rumors that it's pretty slow in focusing, but is there anything else we need to consider?

  2. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Wes :

    The 80-400mm lens takes a bad rap from a lot of folks, but it's actually a very capable lens. Yes, the focusing is slower than the AFS lens type, but it's reasonably good with a little planning. The zoom focal length range is excellent, and again, with some planning, it allows the photographer to frame a photograph to minimise cropping, or alternately, to "step back" with the zoom so as not to overfill the frame or cut off desired image sections.

    Where the 80-400mm lens will not be as beneficial is under low light conditions with rapid movement. It's fine for shooting, say a slowly moving bison or a stationary moose, but it's not going to work as well for quickly flitting birds at sunset. Knowing how an animal will move and anticipating the direction will allow you to maintain a focus lock, or alternately, to pre-focus for where the critter will be.

    The nice thing about the 80-400mm lens is that's very much a "handholdable" lens for a lot of shooting, where a lens like the 400mm f/2.8 is clearly not. The VR function further assists in this aspect of the lens. In very low light, you're better off using a tripod (and don't forget to turn the VR off when stationary tripod shooting !).

    I hope that this helps.

    John P.
  3. Wes,
    I couldn't say it any better than John. I originally bought mine for shooting soccer games. I needed something with more reach than a 300 & the 80-400 did it without breaking the budget. I've also used it for football with some very good results. On a bright day and with a subject that isn't moving extremely fast - you should do well.
  4. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Mark :

    Just to follow on your comment, even with a rapidly moving subject, if the photographer is working with a decent shutter speed and carefully plans their focus, the 80-400mm VR can be an exceptional lens. Where the photographer can't prefocus or plan, the slower focus speed of the 80-400mm can sometimes be less than desirable.

    For example, I photographed hummingbirds with the 80-400mm reasonably successfully, as I'd pick a focal point where I knew the bird would transit, then firing off a burst as the hummer was in or approaching that position. Worked pretty well, all things considered.

    Flexibility-wise for various shooting conditions, there's precious little in the Nikon line that competes with the focal range of the 80-400mm, at least, at the longer end of focal lengths.

    John P.
  5. CAJames


    Sep 6, 2006
    Lompoc, CA
    One more thing, if you can use to focus limiter switch it will really help with the focus speed.
  6. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    I use the 80-400 VR with kenlo pro300 1.4 tc with good results
    Pushing it with a D200 though. Longest I can afford. But it gets me there

    Half of my images in the wild life gallerys are with the tc.
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